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CEO: No loss of services from hospital merger

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Starting Dec. 1, Lakeridge Health will be taking the reins of the Ajax-Pickering hospital, and despite concerns, Lakeridge CEO Matthew Anderson says there’s nothing to fear.

“There are not going to be any cuts to services,” he says, noting that it is in fact the very opposite.

“This is about how we’re going to grow services across our region, so that is absolutely our focus going forward.”

As with any merger, when two entities come together, there is bound to be overlap, and a recently released report from the Ontario Health Coalition states that the numbers just don’t add up.

According to the report, the merger is set to cost $18.2 million, but will only yield annual savings of $300,000.

However, Anderson says the purpose of the merger was not to find savings, but redirecting the available dollars to better places.

“The purpose of the integration and the partnership with all the hospitals isn’t to pull money out of the system. It’s rather to redirect dollars that are in the system to more coordinated care,” he says.

“Certainly, we always have to balance appropriate spending of public dollars and you balance that with increasing access to services, improved coordination of services, improved integration of services, so those are the things we need to focus on as we think about how do we get the best return for our communities from this merger.”

The integration is a byproduct of the Scarborough/West Durham Panel established by the provincial government in April 2015, building on its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care. The merger was a recommendation in the panel’s final report, and it received the support of the Dr. Eric Hoskins, the province’s health and long-term care minister, in April and was later support by the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).

The order from the minister to carry out the merger also ensures the Bowmanville and Port Perry emergency departments remain open, and ensures that the Ajax-Pickering site continues to operate the ER, MRI services and Shoulder Centre, along with the addition of 20 new mental health inpatient beds.

“The hospitals have worked hard to arrive at this point in the process. They have gathered input from staff, patients, and local residents in order to create integrated health service organizations that will better serve their communities. I am confident that together, we can build a health care system in the region that will be stronger for generations to come,” states Hoskins in a news release.

According to Anderson, a merged system is much stronger, as it allows for planning to occur region-wide.

“We’re planning as an entire region, so that allows us to ensure that we’ve got the right services in the right place,” he says.

The merger will also see the Lakeridge Health Board expanded to better represent the region and give consideration to expanding representation to include two additional seats for the West Durham area. According to data from the province, 60 per cent of the hospital’s board of directors live in West Durham.

“Good governance is about inclusivity, it’s about ensuring that on public board and social service boards in particular, it’s about making sure that the composition of your governors really reflects the community that it’s serving,” Anderson says.

Lakeridge Health may also be getting a new name to better reflect the new merged organization.

“The first thing we need to do, and we’ll be starting right away…we need to consult with our community,” Anderson says.

“The principle behind it is this notion of inclusivity and this idea that everybody in Durham should see themselves in their hospitals.”